First came love, then came marriage...
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (Tribune News Service) — The lights of the oncoming car drew closer, swerving across the Warrensburg, Mo., roadway and into their lane.
“What is this guy doing?” an alarmed Air Force Staff Sgt. Jevon McBride said.
The lights bore down. All that Jevon and his pregnant wife, Julie, had wanted to do that night, just after 9:30 p.m. on Oct. 7, was get a bite to eat at Wendy’s.
Stationed at Whiteman Air Force Base, Jevon, 32, had just finished working out at the gym. Julie had just finished a shift at the base day care.
At age 30, she was six months pregnant, and she and Jevon were going through one of the happiest periods of their lives.
Shock, happiness and overwhelmed, she wrote on the day she found out she was pregnant.
It had taken 10 years for the couple to have a pregnancy that took. Along the way: three miscarriages, hormone shots, disappointment, a thousand tears.
Then, on Mother’s Day, just as they were about to give up, maybe look at adoption or other options, she tested one last time.
He (Jevon) was so happy, her journal read. … He hugged me, we kissed and did a baby dance. He was also nervous, hoping the baby would stick.
No matter what happened, they agreed to chronicle everything. No matter how it turned out, this might be their last time.
But now this. The lights were upon them.
“Oh my God, baby, hold on!” Jevon shouted.
Metal twisted. Glass and airbags exploded. Jevon’s right femur and ankle shattered as the car’s front end crumpled. Julie could feel warm liquid pooling around her. She feared it was blood.
“Our father, who art in heaven,” she prayed. “ … Save my baby. I don’t care if anything happens to me. Save my baby and Jevon.”
Human nature searches for certainty, raising hope or easing fear in anticipation of what lies ahead.
But as 2017 has dawned, three months after Julie and Jevon’s hopes and fears collided, they already have learned that sometimes the best you can do is to have faith, be positive and hold each other tight. Because no matter how you think a story will unfold, rarely does it go that way.
Knocked dizzy by the airbag, Jevon regained consciousness. Pain seared his right leg.
“Baby, you OK?” he called to Julie in the passenger’s seat. “Keep breathing. Stay calm.”
Back at home, Julie’s weekly journal was already full of the couple’s hopes as prospective parents.
Week 7: We’re still shocked. We’re so in love. Hubby and I keep watching our first ultrasound over and over … Glow, baby, glow. When you’re done glowing, glow some more.
Week 9: Nausea hit me out of nowhere. It’s tough and draining, but I’m SO happy to be pregnant and wouldn’t trade it for the world.
Then a scare arose — cramping, raising fears of a fourth miscarriage — that became a relief: a benign cyst.
Week 11: I’m still getting sick, but I don’t care. I love this baby so much.
She wrote about her upcoming gender-revealing party. The McBrides had been sure they were having a boy, but the baby was a girl. Friends made them a cake with a pink center to celebrate.
They took pictures of the baby’s room and, on Labor Day, were spotted by a Kansas City Star photographer standing amid acres of blooming sunflowers where they had come to take pictures of themselves with their ultrasound image. The Star photographer snapped their picture and stayed in touch, learning later about the wreck.
“We were so happy in that field,” Julie recalled last week.
They met at an Air Force base in Guam when Jevon was a 19-year-old airman, the only son of parents from Colorado. She was 17, one of four kids of two career Air Force parents — Jeffrey Day, now a lieutenant colonel, and Allison Day, a senior master sergeant.
They went on a date. Jevon, smitten, returned to the barracks and told his buddies, “She’s going to be my wife.”
They married two years later, in August 2005, eloping to the shock and initial dismay of their parents, who didn’t find out until it was over. “My mom called me — she was going crazy on the phone,” Jevon said. “Man, her mom was livid.”
Both had long dreamed of having a family and quickly began trying. It took 10 years, through tours in Italy and back in the States, to finally get their little “bean.”
Week 24, days before the accident: We’re so in love with each other and bean. Sometimes I call out to Jevon around the house and say, “Guess what?!?” He says, “What” and I say, “We’re having a baby.”
Then, at 25 weeks and four days: the crash. A teenager had taken his eyes of the road, perhaps falling asleep at the wheel, Warrensburg police said. No charges were filed.
Two ambulances sped the McBrides to St. Luke’s Hospital in Kansas City. Jevon’s right femur had cracked in two places. His ankle was in shards. Julie had a concussion. The fluid she’d felt was not blood; her water had broken.
The baby still had a heartbeat, an ultrasound showed. But their story had forever changed: The baby, with a due date of Jan. 16, needed to come out by emergency cesarean section.
Her new birthday: Oct. 8.
That morning, the McBrides handed a nurse a camera to take their picture. Within days, Julie would post a powerful photograph on her Instagram page.
It shows Julie and Jevon lying side by side on separate hospital beds just before they go off to surgery — him for his leg, her for the C-section. In the moment, they are holding hands, praying for their baby’s life and health, and deciding on her name.
Juliana Charlotte Madison McBride.
Juliana after Julie’s grandmother. Charlotte for Jevon’s grandmother. And Madison, because, Julie told Jevon, it loosely meant “gift from God.”
“That was right before we let go of our hands,” Jevon recalled. “And after that, it was kind of calming. Gift from God: No matter what, this is our gift from God. We are going to work it out.”
Last week, the couple held Juliana, now weighing more than 5 pounds, at the neonatal intensive care unit at Children’s Mercy Hospital. Born at 1 pound, 11 ounces, tiny enough for Jevon to cup her entire body in his hands, she is thriving and should go home as early as next week or not long thereafter.
“We can’t wait,” Julie said.
To be sure, there are issues.
Juliana spent most of her first 10 weeks in the NICU at St. Luke’s Hospital, with the McBrides living in the Ronald McDonald House. Tiny Juliana was seen nationwide before Christmas when the March of Dimes sent a photo of her, sleeping in her incubator and wrapped all in red like a present with a white bow and a tag reading “BELIEVE,” to the “Good Morning America” show as part of a piece on premature babies at St. Luke’s as precious “gifts.”
But on Dec. 12, Juliana was transferred to Children’s Mercy Hospital when it was determined that she needed neurosurgery. Doctors placed a shunt to relieve blood that was pooling on the left side of her brain.
Children’s Mercy physician Brian Carter, a professor of pediatric neonatology, said Juliana definitely suffered loss of oxygen and damage to her brain from the bleed. But the infant brain is quite resilient, with a remarkable ability in some cases to bypass damage and build new connections. Juliana could be impaired in some of her movements and coordination. She could have speech or hearing problems, on top of some sight problems, that are common among premature infants.
She will need therapies of different sorts. But she is healthy, Carter said, and it is far too early to predict the ways she can progress.
‘We’re a family’
Julie and Jevon share a deep faith. Julie also concedes to having had moments of intense worry and fear.
After Juliana’s birth, physicians couldn’t guarantee that the baby would live, but Julie trusted in God.
“I did have all the faith in the world,” she said. “I did want God to bring us through. I did want a miracle.”
But as a military wife, she also had witnessed families ripped apart in the face of difficulties. That she did not want. After Juliana’s birth, she went to Jevon’s hospital room.
“I told him, ‘Please, don’t let this break us. Please, let’s stay strong,’ ” she said.
She also questioned God and his intentions. After she became pregnant, Julie had gone to church to thank God for what she saw as that miracle. But then the crash, the emergency C-section, now a brain surgery. After three miscarriages, after 10 years of trying, why all this?
“It tore me to pieces to see our baby fight for life again,” Julie said. “I was like, ‘What is going on here, God? We believe in you, but how much can we take?’ I know that there is that saying, God doesn’t give you more than you can handle. But how strong can I be here? How much more can we take?”
Comfort and wisdom came from a devout friend who visited Julie after Juliana’s birth.
“She came to me,” Julie recalled last week, “and said, ‘God told me to tell you, you guys getting pregnant wasn’t the miracle. She (Juliana) is the miracle, and you guys are going to learn things from her. She’s the miracle.’ And I think she’s right.”
The McBrides have no idea what the future holds, where their story will go.
Julie, who spent a week in the hospital, still suffers from her concussion. Jevon spent a month at St. Luke’s. His leg and ankle are healing. He receives rehabilitation therapy. It’s too early to know what his injury means for his Air Force career.
What they do know:
“We’re a family,” Jevon said.
“The next chapter is coming,” Julie said. “I’m excited for the future. It’s a been a ride — high moments, low moments, but beautiful all the same. Every day, I go and see Juliana in the hospital. I always tell Jevon I’m so excited to see her today.”
In the Children’s Mercy NICU, Jevon stood near Julie and Juliana.
“This is amazing,” he said. “From day one, I couldn’t thank my wife enough for giving me this gift. I watch in amazement when she starts breastfeeding. I was in tears for what she was providing for our child.”
He spoke of the first bath, of holding his daughter, of being there for Julie and Juliana to make sure everything is OK.
“It’s been a journey,” he said. “We’ve been around the world together — seen so many things together. Now this.”
He raised his eyebrows and grinned. “Now I’m ready for number two,” he said.
Julie, with her daughter in her arms, giggled and smiled.
©2017 The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.)
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